Easter celebrated twice in land of Christ
HOLY LAND – The Easter celebrations are barely over and they start again on Thursday, April 9, 2015! Due to a shift of one week, Jerusalem is again cordoned off for Easter, celebrated this time by the Orthodox Churches. Many Latin parishes in Palestine, Jordan and Cyprus also celebrate at the same time.
A week after the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches in their different liturgical vestments enter their Easter Triduum until Sunday 12 April, their Easter.
Such a gap often occurs because the coincidence of the date of Easter for the Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches is not shared. Although in many countries this gap goes unnoticed, the consequences of this time difference are many in the Holy Land, especially in Jerusalem, at the place of the Resurrection.
The first is a problem of unity. After speaking with the Patriarch of Constantinople, Pope Francis reflected, during the flight back from his trip to the Holy Land in May 2014, “It is a bit ridiculous: tell me, when does your Christ rise from the dead? Mine will next week. Well, mine was resurrected last week. The date of Easter is a sign of unity”. Yet unity is what is happening in the exchange of wishes which has already started between Christians, some after and others before their Easter Resurrection Mass.
The different calendars inevitably sees the security officials blocking of the streets of Jerusalem around the Holy Sepulchre. For the second consecutive week it is difficult to access or even move around the Holy Places. Many people – although this year a little less than other times – jostle and crush as the faithful arrive early. Exchanging pleasantries between faithful, the police, tourists and pilgrims has become commonplace in the small streets of the Holy City, not built for mass influx
The Latins at the same time as the Orthodox
On Wednesday, April 8, Patriarch Fouad Twal left for Jordan to celebrate there a second Holy Week with the Latin Catholics of the Hashemite Kingdom. In Cyprus and Palestine it is also done at the same time: only next Sunday we will they exchange joyful greetings.
Sensitive to the problems of the unity, the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land (AOCHL) sent a letter to the parish priests before Lent, asking them to celebrate Easter on the same date as the Orthodox. Except in Jerusalem and Bethlehem where the Status Quo between the different Churches prevents any change. “The Church has listened to the voice of the faithful; for a long time it has become the custom to celebrate Easter together, Catholics and Orthodox, according to the Julian calendar, has become a normal praxis; it’s an acquired point that we cannot change,” says the letter. “Any request for an exception to the general principle must be done in faith and charity while aiming at the unity of the Church.”
From Jerusalem came the announcement of the empty tomb that all Christians share. 2000 Years later, if the Church of Jerusalem, the Mother Church, was able to re-unite the faithful to one and the same Easter, the message of the Risen One would have more impact.
Pierre Loup de Raucourt